Monday, July 16, 2012
Where is the incentive for the Armed forces to remain motivated?
by V Mahalingam
A soldier loves his family the most and it is for their welfare that he chooses to sacrifice comfort, endure hardships and above all risk his life in a career which most in the country keep away from. Security to his family and himself with an assured future motivates a soldier to deliver the impossible. Any threat to his well being or even an apprehension that their future may be in jeopardy can have a devastating effect on a soldier's mind affecting his willingness to sacrifice. While it takes time and considerable effort to motivate the Armed Forces, even an innocuous action or word from his leaders or the Government indicating a threat to his perceived sense of security can have a demoralizing effect on his psyche.
Areas of concern of a soldier like any other citizen of the country include education and marriage of his children, healthcare, and financial well being after his retirement. This is especially so because his capacities to earn for the family diminishes at a much younger age while his commitments are at its peak. He believes that the nation will take care of him and his family if ever he gets wounded and disabled while on duty and his family will be cared for and respected if he had to make the supreme sacrifice. Above all he expects the nation to recognize his sacrifices and respect him.
Are we as a nation doing enough to motivate our Armed Forces?
A number of Parliamentary Committees have recommended One Rank One Pension (OROP) for Military Veterans, the latest being the Parliamentary Committee report headed by Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari presented to the Parliament on 19 Dec 2011. The Government is yet to act. OROP to Military Veterans is a well recognized and accepted concept almost by every single political party in the country. The financial implication involved too is meager when compared to a large number of Governmental expenditure. Why then is the supreme body of the country, the Parliament not acting? Are they waiting for the bureaucracy to give them the approval to implement something which they believe is justified and necessary? Would this not be a matter of serious concern to the soldiering community?
Consequent to review by the Committee of Secretaries headed by the Cabinet Secretary, when a general enhancement of the Defence Services pensions was effected, the widows' pension remained unchanged probably by some oversight. Despite the Defence Minister agreeing to enhance the pension of widows in principle, the Government has remained silent over the issue. Over four lakh service widows, the neediest of the lot have thus been ignored. Will this in any way enhance the trust of the soldiering community in the genuineness of the Government to take care of the welfare of the military families when they are dead and gone? How can a soldier trust the Government to take care of his family and venture to sacrifice his life?
Consider the case of Shaurya Chakra awardee NSG Commando Naik PV Manesh. The commando was paralyzed and left wheel chair bound after the 26 / 11 Mumbai operations. He tried Ayurvedic treatment on his own and felt that the treatment was more beneficial than the other systems. But a Government which had no problem sending the former Prime Ministers Mr VP Singh and Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee any number of times to the US with their complete SPG protection for treatment, did not consider it appropriate to reimburse the soldier a few lakhs of rupees for his treatment and has left him to foot the bill himself. The soldier's sacrifice resulting in a lifelong disability has not moved the powers that be. Is it too much for a country to spend a few lakhs of rupees for the treatment of a disabled soldier even if it amounted to fulfilling his mental satisfaction? If discretionary quotas can be allotted to the powerful, why can't the same discretion be applied in the case of this disabled soldier?
6th Central Pay Commission in order to moderate subjectivity in assessing disability, recommended rounding off of the disability up to 50 % to 50 % and those between 50 and 75 % to 75 % and those beyond 75 % to 100 %. The Ministry of Defence chose to sleep over it till 2009!! And when they did wake up they invented a new theory and divided the disabled within the Armed Forces as "Superannuated Disabled and Boarded out Disbled" and ruled that the broad banding will be applicable only to the Boarded out individuals and not the other. Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, a disabled officer belonging to the former category went to the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) which upheld his petition but as is the norm, the MOD failed to act on the judgment. Based on appeals filed by the officer, the AFT fined the Government twice for not acting on the judgment. The Government then directed the Army Headquarters to file an appeal against the AFT judgment in the Supreme Court which they declined. The Government having been cornered filed an appeal through the Department of ex - servicemen's welfare. Is this the way a Government should behave in respect of the disabled for their sacrifices?
A number of officers who were wounded in 1971 war had to remain in hospitals for over a year. What do you think was the reaction of the Government to this prolonged hospitalization of the battle wounded? Any guesses? The Government decided to put these officers on half pay!!
The 1971 Indo - Pak war was not a run of the mill military operation. It was loaded with complex multiple risks. It was a two front war. The Chinese support to its ever green ally through India's northern borders was looming large with the possibility of a third front opening up. President Nixon and his confidant Henry Kissinger were demonstrating their solidarity with Pakistan by moving the US Task Force 74 of the 7th Fleet led by the Aircraft Carrier USS Enterprise to the Indian shores, posing a major naval threat and the opening up of a Naval front. The Indian Army had to be prepared, motivated and led in a country with practically no military culture. Sam Manekshaw stretegised the operation and delivered on a platter a resounding victory to the nation with over 93000 prisoners of war, a victory which no other country in the world has witnessed. Yet the Government did not have the magnanimity to pay him his arrears of pay as a Field Marshal till a few days before his death or give him a farewell when he passed away befitting a national hero. This is the gratitude and respect that the nation has shown to the first man of the Armed Forces. Going by this example, what is the soldiering community to expect for the rest, lower down the ladder?
With this treatment of the Defence Services pensioners, disabled and widows should a soldier sacrifice his life or limbs for the country ignoring his family? Would anyone be prepared to make the supreme sacrifice if this is what his near and dear are to receive from the Government if he were to be disabled or killed in action? The reader may take his call and educate the country if there are any other logic why the soldier would or should act otherwise.
Going by the past record, the Government definitely is not trying to be mean or difficult with the soldiering community. It comes naturally to them.
The views expressed by the author are his own and left to public to judge and rationalise for themselves.